The heads of 11 Sussex secondary schools have joined forces against ‘County Lines’ drug pushers in the county, who the police say are targeting secondary school children to deal illegal drugs for them.
In a collective letter sent just before the six-week summer vacation to the parents of pupils at Worthing schools Bohunt, Chatsmore, Davison, Durrington, St Andrews and Worthing High, Shoreham Academy, the Angmering School, Littlehampton Academy, Steyning Grammar and Sir Robert Woodard in Lancing, parents were asked to check their children’s bags and coats, keep tabs on their whereabouts and inform the police if they suspected anything.
The letter says: “Our school leaders have been informed by Sussex Police that there are a number of known lines of supply into West Sussex from towns and cities a very long way from our schools. We have also been informed that young people are actively targeted in parks and other places where they are known to congregate when they are deemed old enough to meet friends socially outside of the direct supervision of their parents/carers.
“We would really appreciate it if you could ensure that you are aware of your child’s whereabouts when they are in the community, and specifically that you are aware of what they are putting in their school bags and coats before coming to school.”
The letter, which says drug-related incidents reported by students are on the rise, warns carers to be aware of any signs of their charge starting to smoke or try electric cigarettes, deeming these a precursor to trying more serious substances – and it warns that anything illicit found on any child will result in an immediate expulsion.
“An early response to any sign will give you the very best chance of ensuring they will not come to any physical or mental harm in the future. It will also save your son/daughter from the potential risk of losing his/her school place,” the letter warns.
Some schools are known to have introduced drugs testing on students, and three pupils were expelled from a well-known Sussex independent school at the end of last term for testing positive – even though they were not found in possession of anything illegal.
“They’re not tolerating it at all,” said the parent who told C4S. “Quite right – we don’t want this in our schools, so if they’ve been taking drugs, they should be kicked out.”
Police refuse to give details of increasing drug problem
Assuming the police would appreciate any help in getting the message out to parents and grandparents, Caring4Sussex was surprised when our request to Sussex Police for an interview was rejected, with no reason given.
The police did respond to some of our questions, but said many could only be answered by submitting a Freedom of Information request. Even questions like what kind of drugs were most prevalent were left unanswered.
They would not say why the number of incidents was on the increase, nor would they give details on the kind of incident being reported, where the dealers were coming from, the number of recent prosecutions and convictions, or much else at all, despite the fact that this information should be publicly available.
They wouldn’t advise us on what teenagers should watch out for, whether violence was being threatened or if teenagers were being coerced to deal within schools.
They also failed to give any advice to parents or grandparents, although they did say anyone with suspicions should dial 101 or report their suspicions online.
They did reiterate a press release, however, with the
following: “’County Lines’ is a term used by police and partner agencies to
refer to drug networks, both gangs and organised crime groups, from large urban
areas such as London, who use children and young people and vulnerable adults
to carry out illegal activity on their behalf. Gangs dealing drugs is not a new
issue but the extent to which criminal exploitation of children and vulnerable
adults, as well as the increasing use of violence, has become an inherent part
of it through ‘County Lines’, makes it especially damaging.
“The organised crime groups tend to use a local property, generally belonging to a vulnerable person, sometimes a drug user, as a base for their activities. This is known as ‘cuckooing’ and will often happen by force or coercion. In some instances victims have left their homes in fear of violence. Much police work involves identifying these victims and helping them.
“Police continue to see children being exploited by criminal gangs to supply drugs in Sussex. Sussex have experienced children travelling from London to Sussex to deal drugs on behalf of county line gangs as well Sussex children being exploited and targeted by London gangs to deal drugs locally. “Our priority is to identify those children at risk of criminal exploitation and once identified work with partner agencies to put the appropriate safeguarding measures in place.
“The areas in Sussex most effected by the drug trade from London are the larger coastal towns, with established drugs markets that can be exploited locally, including Hastings, Eastbourne, Worthing, Bognor, and Brighton, but also towns such as Crawley.
forcewide County Lines and drug related harm working group brings all parts of
policing together to tackle the threat. There is a four-part plan (Prevent,
Protect, Pursue, and Prepare) to develop our own working practices, to share
best practice and to deliver a better service for the public.
“We use the range of legal powers to tackle this problem, ranging from the Misuse of Drugs Act to Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking legislation and technological advances through the use of Drug Dealing Telephone Restriction Orders (DDTRO).
“We also work closely with other agencies to support those vulnerable adults and children who are exploited by county line gangs. This includes regular visits to those adults at risk of cuckooing and raising awareness with those agencies engaged with children to ensure that information is shared effectively to prevent young people being drawn in to this criminality.”